The Ukrainian population is steadily decreasing, RIA Novosti contributor Nyura N. Berg writes, shedding light on possible causes of the problem.
Following the collapse of the USSR, the population of the former Ukrainian Soviet Republic amounted to about 52 million, Berg pointed out. However, today observers have raised the alarm about the population decline, citing figures between 42 million and 35 million people.
"According to the main demographic indicators — life expectancy, the proportion of the able-bodied population, birth rate — the country is occupying the bottom positions in Europe. A number of Western scientists believe by 2030 the Ukrainian population would amount to 25-28 million, and by 2050 there will be only 15 million 'aborigines,'" Berg noted.
Berg believes that there are several reasons at the root of the problem. One of them is Kiev's attempt to deepen the rift between Ukraine and its historically close neighbor Russia.
"From the very beginning of [Ukraine's] independence, economic ties with Russia were torn, enterprises were closed, whole industries dependent on economic cooperation with Russia were dying. Although the country had withdrawn from the USSR being the richest and most prosperous republic, it managed to squander a considerable part of the Soviet heritage and provide its citizens with one of the lowest living standards among the former socialist states," Berg recalled.
She pointed out that initially specialists and highly skilled workers fled to Russia and Europe; they were followed by non-qualified able-bodied people who left for seasonal work and sometimes do not return back.
"In Western Ukraine, there were settlements, where the population was made up of old people and children," Berg noted, adding that the population of Eastern Ukraine also used to go to work in Russia to support their families, but not at such a scale.
"To date, at least 40 percent of Ukrainian civilians work illegally in the EU," the contributor emphasized.
While labor migration has significantly facilitated the decrease in population there were certain obstacles in the way of those who wanted to leave for Europe — strict visa rules.
Back in 2013, the Ukrainian people gathered at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square in Kiev, demanding that the government sign the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement.
However, the conclusion of the EU Association deal didn't solve Ukraine's economic problems.
"The Ukraine-EU Association [Agreement] did not open the door to the EU — but it turned out to be profoundly unprofitable," Berg highlighted.
That means that Europeans are likely to see a flood of Ukrainian illegal migrant workers coming into their countries.
"According to opinion polls, 30 percent of Ukrainians are ready to run away from their homeland even today," Berg wrote. "[The country's] rapidly destroying economy simply cannot offer jobs to [Ukrainian] citizens. Following the [Euromaidan Revolution], Ukraine has lost more than two and a half million jobs, while half a million entrepreneurs have closed their businesses."
There is yet another factor contributing to the population decline in Ukraine, according to the journalist — sharp cuts in the funding of social programs and health care.
"Large families and single mothers, children with disabilities, citizens with severe chronic diseases, Afghanistan veterans [of Ukraine] and Chernobyl victims suffer [from these cuts]," Berg stressed, adding that today the death rate is surpassing the fertility rate by one and a half times in Ukraine.
"So, let's sum up," Berg wrote. "High migration readiness, gloomy forecasts for the future, the impoverishment of citizens, the wild growth of criminal statistics, the ruined health care system, the fall of the birth rate and, finally, the civil war and the punitive operation in the Donbass. One can also mention here the absence of opportunities for young people, heavy corruption, human rights abuse, and the criminal dictatorship of militants who returned from the so-called ATO zone [in Donbass]."
The aforementioned factors don't leave any room for even cautious optimism, Berg emphasized, adding that the "depopulation" process is likely to continue at a steady pace.